i gave up: homeschool mama confessions part1

Some of you may have picked up on the fact that we homeschool.  When Isabel was two months into Kindergarten, we decided it wasn’t working for us.  Her heart was changing- being super mean and lashing out at everyone.  She he already knew how to write letters and say their sounds.  We found that ministry and family life was a struggle.  Everything seemed to revolve around a school schedule.  These reasons and more brought us to the decision to homeschool.  We stayed this course for five years.  But, as you will read, things began to fall apart.

I love learning.  When I started out with Isabel, things came easily.  She picked up right away, did every worksheet I gave her quickly, and correctly.  She seemed a natural student.  I saw homeschooling as the best way the teach my children to love learning, just as I did.  So far, the plan was flawless.  Kindergarten was a breeze.  It was peaceful and fun.  Just the was I knew it would be.

*insert moving to another town and starting a church here*

When Andre entered the mix the following year, now K and 1st being taught, things got a bit tougher.  If you have taught 1st, you know there are many foundational skills that every other grade build off.  We still kept at it.  Andre was doing great, and he didn’t need too much one on one.  I had time to focus on Isabel.  We did school during the time that Liv and Josie napped.  That worked out great.

*insert moving into a new house here*

Things started to get much more challenging after that.  Andre was in first and Isabel was in second.  This is the year we had to switch to morning school.  The little girls no longer took two naps.  They needed more play and action in their day.  So, they joined us in the school room.  I felt like I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  Things got busy, busy, busy.  I was also pregnant with Desmond.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  Why didn’t everyone else think this was a great idea?

Year three: Andre started early in school and it started to become noticable.  We did 1st and a half with him.  Not quite ready to move on and needed some extra time.  Isabel third grade.  Both starting to need much more explaining in new concepts, and both starting to get complainy.  Too hard, too much, when will it end type stuff.  The girls were a handful and Desmond was an infant.  I flip-flopped between the two.  We implemented having to raise hands and no talking rules.

I ran from toddler to toddler to baby in the school room, trying to keep everyone happy and quiet with toys and books, while keeping myself available to the olders (who did need direct instruction from me for each subject).  It was exhausting.  I did find a good amount of relief through the discovery of “busy bags” for the little ones.  I also added more incentives for the olders, such as candy and tickets for toys if they finished well without complaining.

That year was so, so, busy.  Draining, exhausting, time-consuming, also come to mind.  This is the year I became a very awful housekeeper.  I was so tired by the afternoon, I felt like I was part of the “undead” community.  No matter how many cleaning schedules I printed and posted, I never had enough energy for anything but washing and drying clothes (rarely folding) and cooking.

The following year looked just like this.  I searched for “better” curriculum in efforts to make things more fluid and more fun for everyone.  After about half the year, I realized curriculum wasn’t really the issue.  Great curriculum can make things better, but the same attitudes and exhaustion crept back in.  I longed for a tidy house.  I was embarrassed to have people over, but I loved to have people over. So, they just saw all the mess.

*insert moving to and starting a farm here*

Now, that brings us to last year.  This Part 1 post will paint a picture for the decision we made for our current school year.  First, lets review last year.

Okay, last year looked like this:  Isabel grade 4, Andre grade 2, Olivia K, Josie Pre-K, Desmond wild and crazy.

To say that I “had it” at this point, is an understatement.  I longed to be the fun exciting teacher that makes each child run to the table eager to learn.  The reality is that I was more like the tired, burned-out homeschool mom, who longed for silence and a break from the little dears she so very much loves.  I decided after all these years it was time for some me time.  This was the key to feeling like a human again.

I went to once a month girls night/craft days, took days to myself while Nick watched kids, went shopping alone as much as possible.  Hid in my room during quiet time.  What happened is I fed my selfishness.  I just wanted more me time. I’m not saying these things were bad, I’m saying my heart was bad while doing them.  I wasn’t seeking the spiritual encouragement I needed.  I was escaping from this pressure instead of finding ways to cope with it.

By the end of the school year, with the approaching new year coming in just months, I was done.  I told myself that someone else could do better, they’ll listen to someone else, I’ve put in my time, we can’t afford the books that will make everything better.  It’s just too much.  I need a break.  I convinced myself and my husband that I could be a better mom, wife, and housekeeper if the went to public school.

So, it was decided.  We picked a wonderful K-8 school with only 40 students.  We filled out all the paperwork, with relief and hope in our hearts.  They were scheduled to start August 1st.  I made plans to make this summer the most fun ever.  I think that I was trying to let them know that I loved them.  When they weren’t in school from here on out, we were going to have the best family time possible together.

Four out of five kids would be in school.  I could almost hear the sound of the waves crashing on the shore.  My life was about to become a vacation.

That was all said and done, before we all had the worst summer of our lives. Everything I knew about myself as a mother and human was about to change.

To read Part 2 click here.

homeschooling with toddlers




I will start with saying this, the key to homeschooling children when you have toddlers is options.  Small children have very short attention spans, as you well know, so having plan “A” and “B” is not enough– have A-Z ready, and at arms reach.

What we do to entertain the little ones in our house changes all the time.

I have shared about busy bags before.  That’s what most of our options are now.  I try to add a few new ones every month.

I’ll share with you how our typical day of homeschool looks with a toddler.

We start each day with notebooks.  You can stick just about anything in them.  From coloring pages, to ripping out sections from preschool work books, to utilizing the seemingly endless amount of online printables…truly, the options for making up a preschool notebook are overwhelming.

Once the kids are bored done with those we move to the busy bags/trays I mentioned above.  Here are some examples of what that can look like:

Do-a-dot pages are new here.  I found a set of Do-a-dot paint 50% off at Staples.  I found a couple of sites with free printables for the pictures. A huge volume of pattern block mats are located  here.  If you haven’t any pattern blocks, you can print a set over at Sistermommies.  I laminated mine, but you could use sheet protectors also.
Desmond loves these Car Mats I found.  This site also has number and letter car mats.

These are just a few ideas from a vast ocean of activities that are FREE and FUN for toddlers.  I didn’t even point out the other helpers, such as plain ole coloring, cutting practice, play dough, reading from special “school” picture books, and educational movies.

I truly wish that I would have figure out this system soon than last year.  When a child completes one activity, I hand them another.  This is so helpful for times when the older schooled children need my help.  Everyone sits and keeps busy the entire time.  Essential to the happiness of mama during school is having a plan and a structure.  I love that they all are learning something even though I don’t directly teach them all at the same time.

Hope that helps all you homeschoolers out there.  You certainly don’t have to follow exactly what others do, but having an array of ideas is perfect for finding what will work for your little ones.


busy bags

I have discovered busy bags.  They are life savers.  Normally while I’m schooling the older kids, I throw paper, crayons, scissors, pens, glue stick and such at the younger kids in hopes that they’ll be entertained enough to let me talk with the students.

The Big Bang Theory of paper crafting doesn’t work.  It seems as in real life, even if you have all the supplies, you still need an intelligent plan.

So, I looked for an intelligent plan.

I found one.  Busy bags.  You can find a ba-gillion of them online.  Here are my favorite sites are Montessori For Everyone and Money Saving Mom.

My favorite is the first.  It has a huge selection, and many are for older kids as well.

I made an obscene amount of these over the last few days.  You just print out the activities, put it in a bag, and wait for the kids to beg you for them.  It’s that easy.  I now see pom poms and colored paper clips in my future.  I made about 20 bags using only what I had on hand.

They work.  They’re cute. They’re cheap. They’re easy to clean up.  They’re educational.  They’re here to stay.

Busy bags…if you don’t have some, get some.